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March 12, 2006

Kashi shows us the way 

Those responsible for the terror acts were envious of India’s economic progress. They have no respect for humanity. Varanasi is a symbol of syncretism and peace

—Javed Akhtar, Muslims for Secular Democracy

Kashi has shown India and the world that peace and co-existence is at the very essence of every Indian’s existence, Hindu or Muslim. We salute Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra of the Sankat Mochan temple who refused to let an act of terror that killed lives become the fodder for further bloodletting.

                                   ---Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Communalism Combat

For the third day in succession, Varanasi’s streets echoed with voices and demonstrations for peace and harmony, while sympathy was offered to the tragic victims of the bomb blasts of March 7.  A number of social organisations have staged demonstrations condemning the March 7 blasts and on Sunday, March 12, the local unit of the Seva Dal organised a unique march in which lyricist Javed akhtar, social activist, Swami Agnivesh and human rights activist, Teesta Setalvad participated. Paying their respects at the railway union hall to mark the deaths that took place at a result of the blasts at the railway station, the peace activists marched from the BHU gate to Rajendra Prasad Ghat. Among the other participants were Father Valson Thampu and an active group of the Aligarh Muslim Union students union.

Culminating in an oath taken with the holy Ganga jal in hand at the famed Rajendra Prasad ghat on the banks of the holy Ganges, the participants swore to battle the forces of terror, the politics of hatred and violence and devote their energies in this direction. Before this, they visited the Sankat Mochan temple and offered their darshans. The atmosphere of Varanasi following the bomb blasts last week has been kept calm entirely due to the tireless efforts of the local residents who refused to be drawn into a cycle of suspicion, panic hatred and fear.

From the silent street and mohalla committees who worked 24 hours, to dispel any suspicion and panic, to the scores of religious organisations, notably those from the Muslim minority who have stepped forward,  spontaneously and unequivocally,  to condemn the heinous acts and offer help and sympathy to the victims, it was the people of this ancient and historic place of pilgrimage that typifies India’s Ganga-Jamuna culture, who have emerged the victors against terror.

“Kashi se ham kucch dene nahin, yahan se kuch lene aaye hai….yeh mahanagari se  to insaan moksha lene aate hai”,  said an emotional Javed Akhtar who spoke equally vociferously against the politics of terror, hate and fundamentalism. “Benaras has shown India and the world that even at moments of tragedy, we can and must draw on our centuries old lived experience of inter-community negotiation and maintain peace,” said Teesta Setalvad while saluting Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra for staunchly preventing this tragedy from being misused for political ends.

The day after the tragic bomb blasts, when Vinay Katiar, of the BJP and founder of the Bajrang Dal had tried to enter the temple he was told that the place of worship is for the almightly. Politics must stay outside. The temple is for the almighty, he had quietly stated. Swami Agnivesh spoke vociferously against oppression and fear.

Hafiz Gandhi Vice President of the AMU students union stated that it was the duty of Aligarh and Benaras to stand by each other in this moment of great tragedy and that students of AMU would always do so.

Responding to the demand made by participants at a dharna in the city’s Lahurabir Crossing a day before, Syed Shah Fazala-Rehman, Imaam of Teele Wali mosque in Lucknow had said that “The Quran is clear on such issues. It is against violence and does not permit such heinous acts….I have urged the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh to expedite the investigation and identify the attackers. The bombers are neither Hindus nor Muslim. They are ‘shaitan’,” Rehman, who visited the blast site at Sankat Mochan temple, told reporters on Sunday.

“Mahantsaab ka hamara pranam hai jinhine is mauke par shanti, sabr aur aman ka desh ko paigaam diya hai,” said Teesta Setalvad. Lashing out at terrorists for resorting to such crimes, Akhtar said that “Jo mujh ko zinda jala rahain hain woh bekhabar hain ki deerai deerai meri zanjeer.” An enthusiastic band of the local Sewa Dal including Pramod Pandey had organised the whole day’s programme.

--Sabrang Alternative News Service   [SANN]

The writer is co-editor, Communalism Combat